Sunday, July 14, 2013

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast - The Enchanted Christmas

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Original cast, interesting middle chapter to original story
Cons: Pales next to the original
The Bottom Line
A decent sequel
Still not the original
But it entertains

Christmas Tale as Old as Time

In the glut of sequels that Disney released in the mid to late 90’s, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas stands out in a couple of ways.  While a direct to video release, it wasn’t a true sequel but was set during the original movie as “an untold chapter” in the story.  Secondly, it was the only one that focused on a holiday.  Unfortunately, it still falls short of the original, and the result is only average.

The story opens not too long after Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) almost ran away and was rescued from the wolves by Beast (Robby Benson).  As a thank you to Beast, Belle decides to throw a lavish Christmas.  Just one problem, Beast has forbidden Christmas since it reminds him of a painful past.  Still, she plunges ahead, enlisting her friends from the first movie and Angelique (Bernadette Peters), the forgotten castle decorator turned Christmas angel.

Not only must they sneak around Beast, but wind of their plans has reached Forte, court composer turned pipe organ (Tim Curry).  Since the spell was put on the castle, he has become confidant to Beast, and he likes his new position.  He doesn’t want the spell broken, and he views Belle as a threat.  Since he can’t move, he enlists Fife (Paul Reubens) to disrupt the Christmas celebration any way he can.  Will the plot succeed?  Or will Beast’s heart melt a little toward Christmas?

Of the sequels from that time period, this was the only one I enjoyed enough to purposely go out and buy.  Heck, most of them I haven't even seen.  However, re-watching it now, I didn’t find it as enchanting as I remembered.  Yes, it does feature all the characters from a favorite movie, so I was probably a little soft on it.  And the plot is decent.  Considering they are constrained by the plot of the original story, they do a good job of coming up with conflict and a new villain.  Plus it fleshes out the story in the original a bit more, showing the two leads softening toward each other but not yet fully in love enough to break the spell.

The entire original cast returns – almost.  By the time this film was made, Bradley Pierce was too old to voice Chip.  He was replaced by Haley Joel Osment, but his voice is very different from the original, which does annoy me.  Overall, I thought the voice cast did a great job.  Tim Curry is an excellent villain as always.  Unfortunately, Bernadette Peters' French accent is a bit thick, so she is harder to understand than the rest of the characters.

While we’re on the subject of Chip, the entire movie is told to the post-spell Chip on the following Christmas.  Yet, he’s a major character in the movie.  Wouldn’t he remember this all without anyone needing to tell him the story?

There are new songs.  They are fine, but they certainly aren’t up to the level of the songs in the original movie.

Likewise, the animation is a notch or two down from the first movie.  There are no gorgeous shots of the castle, but there’s nothing that will push you out of the film.

And I guess to me that sums up the movie overall.  It’s fine, but it’s not the original.  I can’t really point to anything that makes the film bad, but it’s not something you need to rush out and watch.  If you are looking for a new Christmas movie, you’ll find Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas diverting, but it won’t become an annual tradition.

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